Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Alabama Crimson Tide are the favorites for yet another national champio-
Yeah, it’s almost ridiculous what ‘Bama does year in and year out. Despite losing elite talent to the NFL every year, Nick Saban recruits so well that he’s set up year after year with gaudy prospects ready to show off their worth.
The 2018 college football stage is set with a multiple of strong CFL playoffs contenders including Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State, LSU, but ‘Bama is simply just in a league of its own this season. While ‘Bama has yet to play a ranked opponent this year, there’s a multitude of reasons why you should get excited about this upcoming season.
- Ground & Pound
Perhaps the most basic element of football starts with winning in the trenches. For years ‘Bama has dominated the line of scrimmage at the point of attack. In 2018 we see more of the same. Behind one of the best offensive lines in college football, this rushing attack is lethal.
In 2017 the Alabama backfield was dominated by Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough with QB Jalen Hurts popping in for a bunch of carries. When Scarbrough was drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 NFL Draft, questions surrounding who would carry the mail for ‘Bama in 2018 arose.
Nick Saban has almost never used one running back as a bell cow. He generally runs an RBBC with at least two RBs surpassing 100+ carries 8 of his 11 years as head coach of ‘Bama. With the other three years, the next RB up had carry totals of 95, 92, and 77. This is a strategy that has worked well for Saban as he always has an elite run game under his belt.
When Scarbrough left it was obvious Damien Harris would lead this backfield. Harris put up 1000 yards on just 135 carries (7.4 YPC) in 2017, so he was clearly in line for a bigger role for 2018. At 5’10” 210 lbs, Harris has great burst, beautiful cutting ability, and breaks off tacklers like it’s no one’s business.
The player that has ‘Bama fans excited is sophomore Najee Harris. The younger Harris was the no. 11 prospect in the ESPN Top 300 in 2017. At 6’2” 225 lbs, Harris is the perfect blend of speed-power-agility and only adds to his game with his fantastic ability as a pass catcher.
‘Bama is set at the forefront of their backfield, but they have fantastic depth. Junior Josh Jacobs is a satellite back that reminds you a bit of Darren Sproles. He is one of the most elusive backs in the country, and one that delivers with big plays on the regular. Sophomore Brian Robinson came in with Najee Harris. Robinson provides a fantastic blend of power-speed-size and is sure to make a splash in 2019, but for now, will ride the bench as a strong depth piece.
Alabama has an elite run game, one which Saban can rely on at any point in any game. As it stands ‘Bama has put up a robust 236.7 rushing yards per game in 2018, good for 5th best in the tough SEC. This is a rushing attack that will perfectly complement Nick Saban’s shiny new QB.
- The Emergence of Tua Tagovailoa
Everyone remembers the 2018 National Championship game where the Crimson Tide were being shut out 0-13 by SEC rival Georgia. After leading Alabama all season long, Jalen Hurts was in the midst of a shoddy game going 3/8 with 21 yards in the 1st half against an elite Georgia defense.
Nick Saban made the stunning (and bold) decision to input Tua Tagovailoa as the starting QB in the 2nd half. And with that, a star was born. Tua went 14/24 for 166 with 3 TDs to only 1 INT in the OT thriller where ‘Bama won the National Championship game 26-23.
When 2018 hit, Nick Saban had to make the decision whether to go with uber reliable Jalen Hurts who Saban leaned on for 2 years or the promising Tua Tagovailoa. In the end, the decision was simple. Tagovailoa unlocks this offense, he sends this passing game into another echelon.
Tua can do it all. The lefty QB hits his receivers in stride and has a cannon for an arm. The dual-threat QB can evade tacklers when he scrambles and excels on designed runs/option plays. Tagovailoa is an incredible decision maker, an accurate passer, he is the complete package at QB.
In the first three games of the season, Tua has absolutely dominated. Keep in mind that he is often pulled early in the 2nd half due to Alabama regularly blowing out their opponents. Tua has dropped 646 passing yards on 36/50 (72.0%) with an incredible 8:0 TD to INT ratio. Not to mention his incredible efficiency in posting a jaw-dropping 12.92 Y/A. Tua has even pitched in a solid 14-93-1 rushing line on 6.6 YPA.
Alabama has traditionally been a ball control team. They are very run dominant, they play elite defense, and have a QB that is conservative but won’t make mistakes. Now ‘Bama has those elements with the exception of a game manager, instead, they have an absolute stud under center. Tua has taken Alabama from a ball control team to an offensive juggernaut.
Alabama has won countless championships with their ball control mentality, strong run game, no turnovers, and elite defense. Now ‘Bama has all those elements but you add in an infinitely strong aerial attack with Tagovailoa. Tua has this team as the no. 1 scoring offense in the country (56.7 PPG), couple that with their outstanding defense and what can you do to stop them?
- Hurt? Hurts.
The reality in sports is injury occurs. You can do all you can to try to prevent it, but in any contact sports, the risk of injury is always present. Alabama has the ultimate luxury in that department. If starting QB Tua Tagovailoa ever goes down, they can plug in Junior QB Jalen Hurts.
Imagine a slightly shorter, more athletic version of Alex Smith. Got it? Yeah, that’s Jalen Hurts. Much like Smith, Hurts is a conservative QB with much arm talent, but is a game manager who doesn’t turn the ball over while letting the run game carry the offense. Hurts is an athletic phenom who shreds teams on the ground for countless yards.
While Hurts does not give this offense the versatility Tua does, he is more than a capable QB himself. Hurts played in this offense for two years, he knows it like the back of his hand. His freshman year, Hurts led ‘Bama all the way the National Championship picking up the SEC OPOY that year.
His sophomore year, Hurts showed off his efficiency. He posted a jaw-dropping 17:1 TD to INT ratio with an equally extraordinary 8.2 Y/A. Hurts did not give his receivers a chance to win 50-50 balls, which contributed to his elite efficiency but also significantly lowered the ceiling of this offense. All in all, the formula worked with Hurts bringing ‘Bama to the National Championship game two years in a row.
So what does Jalen Hurts contribute? In the short term, nothing. Nick Saban may give Hurts some reps here and there to keep him fresh, but Hurts is the ultimate insurance policy. No team has the luxury of having a player of Jalen Hurts caliber and experience on the bench ready to step in and excel on offense, this in effect ensuring continuity for the Crimson Tide.
- Defense Wins Championships
As the old saying goes, “offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.” While many analysts have debunked this theory, Alabama has proved everyone wrong with an elite defense year in and year out.
Despite losing elite defensive talent to the NFL year in and year out, ‘Bama still manages to stay at top of the ranks every season. The Crimson Tide have made way to some tremendous defensive players. Landon Collins, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Marcell Dareus, and many more have all stepped through this program before departing for the NFL.
In 2018 the Crimson Tide are once again loaded on defense. Players like Raekwon Davis, Anfernee Jennings, Isaiah Buggs, and many more are integral parts of this elite defense. To this point ‘Bama is letting up only 9.3 PPG, 8th highest in college football.
With Alabama traditionally being a ball dominant team, their defense was always key to keep their conservative offense in check. Now with Tua and their newfound high flying offense the need for that elite defense is not as crucial, but more than welcomed as ‘Bama runs the score up and blows their opponents out.
- Nick Saban Is The GOAT
If there’s one thing that elevates this team above all other measures it’s the presence of coach Nick Saban. After winning his 6th National Championship in 2018, Saban is undoubtedly the GOAT of coaching college football.
Saban didn’t just win behind a loaded roster. This was a team that won all season but did not dominate the way they usually do. After playing average teams for the majority of the season, ‘Bama lost in heartbreaking fashion to #6 ranked Auburn, their toughest opponent of the season.
Then questions started to swirl if ‘Bama deserved to be in the CFL Playoffs after such an odd season. In the end, ‘Bama barely snuck in and dominated a VERY talented Clemson team en route to the National Championship game. It was at that point, Nick Saban pulled off one of the greatest decisions in college football history.
Saban pulled Jalen Hurts, his starting QB for a full two years at halftime for an unknown commodity in freshman QB Tua Tagovailoa. And from there you know how it went, Tua dominated and ‘Bama received it’s 5th National Championship title, solidifying the GOAT argument for Nick Saban.
Nick Saban is the best recruiter in CFL. He runs fantastic schemes. Simply put, he’s the best coach. After a long offseason where Saban had to decide between Hurts and Tagovailoa as his starting QB for 2018, Saban smartly went with Tua, a move which has paid great dividends.
Now in 2018, Saban has ‘Bama is no. 1 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. This is in spite of usually benching his starters somewhere in the 3rd quarter. It’s a true testament to the depth Saban has built into this roster. If all else fails, one thing is for sure. Nick Saban will find a way to bring this Alabama program it’s 6th National Championship in 11 years.